Human rights groups say Mexico not investigating spyware claims

Software called Pegasus was sold to Mexico's government by Israeli company

Reuters February 21, 2018
Ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade gestures to members of the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) after he was sworn in, in Mexico City, Mexico February 20, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS


A group of human and digital rights activists said on Tuesday that the Mexican government had failed to properly investigate allegations their smartphones were infected with spying software.

They have asked for an independent investigation. Activists, human-rights lawyers and journalists filed a complaint in June with the attorney general's office, claiming the government had infected their phones to spy on them with software known as Pegasus, which Israeli company NSO Group allegedly sold to Mexico's government.

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"Since filing the complaint we said we did not trust the
attorney general's office would be able to investigate itself,
since there is evidence it was that agency that purchased the
malware," the activist groups said in a joint statement.

The group includes the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human
Rights Center (Prodh), human rights advocacy group Article 19,
Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity and digital rights
group R3D. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has asked the attorney general's office to investigate the charges the government spied on private citizens, saying he wanted to get to the bottom of
the accusations he called "false."

"President (Pena Nieto) condemned the investigation to
failure, threatening the accusers and concluding prematurely the
charges were false," said the statement. Citizen Lab, a group of researchers based at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, has said it found a trace of the Pegasus software in a phone belonging to a group of experts backed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights who investigated the 2014 disappearance of 43 students.

UN human rights experts called on the government of Mexico
in July to "cease the surveillance immediately" of activists and
journalists and to conduct a fully impartial investigation into
the illegal spying.

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The group of activists said Mexican authorities have not
followed up on several leads, even failing to identify and
question the government officials trained to use Pegasus.

They called on candidates for July's presidential election
to make a public announcement on the need to create a panel of
independent experts to investigate the case.

Left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is leading
in polls for the July vote. He is followed by Ricardo Anaya of
the left-right coalition "For Mexico in Front" and trailing in
third is Jose Antonio Meade of Pena Nieto's ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI).

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